From the moment that Lloyd Pierce was fired and Nate McMillan took over – a moment that coincided with the return of a healthy Bogdan Bogdanovic, not coincidentally – the Hawks have profiled not as a good team, or even a very good team, but a championship contender.
They had the seventh best net rating in the NBA from March 2 until the end of the season, and more wins than any other team in the Eastern Conference over that span. In the postseason, they have five wins against just two losses despite being picked by almost everyone to be eliminated in the first round, and going into Thursday night, they were the only team to win a road game in the second round.
Now, they’re home for what might be the biggest playoff game the team has hosted since Dominique Wilkins suited up. Yes, the 60-win Hawks team from a few years ago advanced to the conference finals, but no one thought they stood a chance against LeBron’s Cavs, and sure enough, they were easy pickings for Cleveland. This squad feels different.
As it should. Since February 21, no team in the NBA has a better home record than the Hawks. Including the playoffs, they have 21 wins against just two losses at State Farm Arena. Their regular season net rating at home over the final three months of the season was also better than every team except the Jazz. Despite all of that, they find themselves underdogs here, against a Sixers team that needed a Shake Milton explosion to finally pull away in a tight Game 2.
The Hawks should be favored here, and this line has far more to do with perception than reality. Don’t be fooled.
76ers vs. Hawks Pick
The Pick: Hawks +1.5 @ -105
Expert 76ers vs. Hawks Predictions
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